Between Two Identities: A Life of Spiritual Wisdom
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
– Proverbs 2:6
Where are you?
I’m terrible with directions. Even with a GPS navigation system on my phone, I still get turned around and can end up in the wrong place. Last fall, my husband and I were in South Dakota to watch our son play football, which allowed us to visit some spectacular sites. Our goal was to drive through the Black Hills on our way out of town to experience the beauty of this geological wonder.
After entering our destination in my maps app, we ended up on a road that seemed, well, deserted. Our instincts told us we were off course, but Siri was firmly and calmy directing us, so we obeyed. After several miles on a gravel road with no sign of life, we realized we were outside the Black Hills, seeing them from quite a distance, clearly on the wrong road. With nowhere to turn around, we were stuck with a less than stellar view of the backside of the Black Hills with no clear entry point to let us back in.
We rode in silence for a while before I sheepishly said, “I sent us on the wrong path.” My husband took it in stride, but I was really embarrassed. We had missed our chance to drive through one of the most fascinating natural rock formations in our country. Even with sophisticated technology assisting me, I had gotten us lost.
“Where are you?” is the first question that God asks Adam in Genesis. Curiously, God pursues us by asking questions he already knows the answer to. Even though he knows where we are and where we are going, he invites us to search our own hearts and lives. With his divine guidance, we can find some clarity.
Knowing where you are is not just identifying your location on a map. Yes, being lost geographically is a minor inconvenience, but what happens if you’re lost spiritually?
In this “Between Two Identities” series, we have come to learn that where we are in our identity formation is part of a developmental process. Just as an infant’s emotional and psychological capacities take time to mature into that of a fully functioning adult, so our identity progresses through time, explicitly and implicitly picking up knowledge, information, and experiences along the way as it takes shape.
Our growth isn’t linear either. It’s circular. We find ourselves in familiar places, revisiting thoughts, feelings, memories, and beliefs as we take wrong turns, recognize our limitations, and respond to God’s invitation of self-reflection.
An Identity Navigation System
Engaging your story is as much about exploring who you are as identifying where you are on a developmental map.
So far, we have come to understand that our personal and spiritual growth is a process of navigating through the following stages:
Setup entails naming the arrangement and organization of your life circumstances and family system that catalyzed the unfolding drama of your life. These are the fixed facts of your life: the time and place you were born, your primary early attachment figures, the cultural influences around you, the genetic traits you inherited, etc.
Read more about the Setup stage—Starting Your Self-Exploration at the Beginning
- Shattered Shalom
As harm and brokenness ruptures your childhood innocence, you discover that the world bears a curse and is damaged by sin and evil. The enemy of your soul seeks to divide and separate you from God. A war in your heart has begun.
Read more about the Shattered Shalom stage—Recognizing the Real Enemy
Splitting is the internal fragmentation of a person’s sense of self caused by original sin and the pain of living in a fallen world. The result: defense mechanisms developed to protect against feelings of shame by splitting off parts of yourself – or other people – that produce bad feelings. Efforts to cope with this distress spawn many hurtful behaviors and habits.
Read more about the Splitting stage—Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness
We search for comfort, pleasure, and favor in another person’s approval. Growing awareness of your God-given desire for love, connection, and belonging tempts you to fulfill your innate need to be Seen, Soothed, Safe and Secure with substitutes for genuine intimacy.
Read more about the Search stage—Finding What You're Searching For
Precipitated by unavoidable or unnecessary suffering, this is a predicament where you feel shackled or bound to two opposing forces, creating a crisis that requires a decision. Whether wandering in the wilderness, desert, or valley, you’re stuck when you’ve hit a wall of confusion or despair, and it appears there is no way out or forward.
Read more about the Stuck stage—Lingering in Lament
With Surrender, you acknowledge sin, weakness, failure, and the inability to measure up to the ideal. This includes recognizing that there is an Authority over your life with whom you have been wrestling. And that you can trust this Authority if you relinquish control. This growing sense of spiritual bankruptcy and need for a Savior produces humility—a prerequisite for spiritual wisdom.
Read more about the Surrender stage—Letting Go and Trusting God
The last stage is the fruit of our journey, the byproduct of our search for knowledge and understanding of God and ourselves: spiritual wisdom.
Living a life characterized by spiritual wisdom is less of an endpoint in our maturity and more a process of noticing and relearning the preceding stages of identity formation over and over again.
As we meaningfully engage these two critical questions, “who am I?” and “where am I?”, we must look to scripture. For, as the psalmist tells us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105)
Psalm 25 offers an instructional model of what this looks like. Use it to practice living in spiritual wisdom:
- “To you O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Ps. 25:1)
Lift your soul to God. Bring all parts of your fragmented heart into his presence. This happens through talking, crying out, lamenting, singing, writing, silent prayer, quiet reflection, and solitude.
- “Make me know your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths” (Ps. 25:4)
Be teachable, and present yourself humbly to God. Ask him for clarity and understanding.
- “Lead me in your truth and teach me” (Ps. 25:5)
Seek God’s truth. His truth transcends our personal truth. God himself has spoken through Jesus and through his word, so ask for ears to hear what he has said.
- “For you I wait all the day long” (Ps. 25:5)
Wait for the Lord. This may mean facing the pain of delayed gratification as you bring your unmet needs, longings, and desires before him.
- “The paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies” (Ps. 25:10)
Obey God’s precepts, testimonies, and instructions for life. He created you with a plan and purpose.
- “Pardon my guilt, for it is great” (Ps. 25:11)
Repent of sin and ask for God’s forgiveness. Receive his cleansing so you can have a clear conscience and walk in the light, free from shame.
- “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him” (Ps. 25:14)
Fear the Lord, honor him as the author of your story, and acknowledge his power over all things.
- “Turn to me and be gracious to me” (Ps. 25:16)
Receive the grace and comfort God offers in times of affliction and distress. Remember that nothing can separate you from his love, and you are his beloved child.
- “May integrity and uprightness preserve me” (Ps. 25:21)
Walk in honesty and integrity. Understand that God already knows your divided heart, and he is in the process of restoring you by his Spirit.
- “For I wait for you” (Ps. 25:21)
Wait for the Lord (this is a continual theme). He is accomplishing his purposes in your life circumstances and is working all things out for his glory and for our good.
Practicing the Presence of God
As we acknowledge how far we have come on our journey (and how far we still must go), may you simply understand that God has entrusted you with the care of your soul, and you are to watch over your heart with all diligence.
Our life goal is to experience and live in the presence of God, understanding that everything else in this world pales in significance. We are starting to comprehend that what our identity formation requires more than anything else is intimacy with God and to know that he is “with us”.
In this state of Spiritual Wisdom, we no longer strive for perfection and acceptance. Instead, we rest in the quiet assurance that God is continually drawing us more completely to himself.
Living between two identities—your present, imperfect reality and your ongoing transformation into the likeness of Jesus—can be a place of peace and rest when you practice the presence of God daily, trusting that he will be with you even as you wrestle with unanswered questions.
Such spiritual wisdom will stand the test of time and bring life to your soul until you meet him face to face and your true identity is fully realized.
“For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12
Growing in spiritual wisdom starts with knowing God and his character. Read more about the value of knowing God rather than knowing about it.
Don't miss each part of this blog series by Lynn Roush:
- Between Two Identities: Discovering Who You Are According to God's Story
- Between Two Identities: Starting Your Self-Exploration at the Beginning
- Between Two Identities: Recognizing the Real Enemy
- Between Two Identities: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness
- Between Two Identities: Finding What You're Searching For
- Between Two Identities: Lingering in Lament
- Between Two Identities: Letting Go and Trusting God